Newsletter May 2012

Labor Rate Bill Getting Lots of Attention at State House

For some leaders of AASP, promoting the Labor Rate Bill on Beacon Hill has become a six-year marathon. This battle for fairness has taken dozens of twists and turns, along with a couple of terribly disappointing conclusions at the ends of the 2008 and 2010 legislative sessions. But, since Day One of its introduction into the State Legislature, the Labor Rate Bill has had overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and, during this session, it appears that this high level of support is driving the legislative leadership to look at our effort as one which demands attention. So, it is with great caution (based on past failures) that we tell you that our industry’s bill is getting somewhat of a “priority treatment” at the State House.

As AASP’s leaders have said in the past, nothing short of seeing the dry ink of the signature of the governor on the Labor Rate Bill will be considered a success. But, after the recent rounds of meetings with some of the most influential leaders in our state government, the idea that the bill could reach the final stage seems less far-fetched than it has in the past. The message has been delivered, and received, that the time to pass the bill has come. And, it appears that the legislative leaders feel more responsibility to get this job done.

As we write this column, the bill officially has been held in the Joint Committee on Financial Services “on extension,” with an extended deadline until June 21, 2012. According to legislative rules, committees should have decided “yea” or “nay” on bills by the third Wednesday in March. But, because of several factors unique to this particular legislative session, this committee had to hold that decision for later on about a dozen bills – ours being one of them.

Of course, it’s always a good thing when a bill sails through a committee with “yea” written all over it, as has happened to the Labor Rate Bill during the past two sessions. However, our lobbyist had made it clear that this bill needed to be a priority for the committee from the beginning of this session, and the committee simply held the bill for “extended discussion” so that it could receive this priority status.

Though it may seem to some that this action would be negative, quite the opposite is true. Both chairmen of this committee told us that they didn’t want to “rubber-stamp” dozens of bills and watch them die in the legislative process. They made it their priority to move bills forward only if they felt they could support them and work on their passage. So, the fact that we are in this position and having our bill considered in this manner is both a compliment to our efforts and a reflection of the integrity with which these chairmen – Senator Anthony Petruccelli of East Boston and Representative Michael Costello of Newburyport – perform their service to the public.

To be sure, our bill still has a very long way to go. And, even more concerning is that the final form that it could take (no bill EVER passes into law with the same words that were in the original version) may represent a less thorough victory for our industry. But, after six years, the opportunities that appear to be in front of us indicate that it is time to move the auto collision repair industry into a new era in Massachusetts.